Don Yates

Key Matchups: Army vs. Duke

The sixth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (Sagarin 111, 1-4) and the Atlantic Athletic Association Coastal Duke Blue Devils (Sagarin 31, 4-1.)

 

Background

The sixth game of the year matches the Army West Point Black Knights (Sagarin 111, 1-4) and the Atlantic Athletic Association Coastal Duke Blue Devils (Sagarin 31, 4-1.)  Army has lost four games by a total of 16 points, and are looking to win their second game of the year after a very inspiring and encouraging loss at Penn State.  Duke looks to continue their winning ways en route to the ACC championship game.

Last Week

At State College, PA – Army played their best game in several years, but came up short on a fourth down and five at the PSU 43-yard line as the Nittany Lions prevailed 20-14.

Army rushed for 261 yards on 55 carries and held the ball for 31:19.  It was cold and rainy, which made things more difficult for the fumble prone Senior quarterback A.J. Schurr.  Army fumbled seven times and lost possession three times, resulting in ten points.  Schurr fumbled four times and PSU recovered twice, once on a bad snap, and the other time on an extremely poor left-handed option pitch attempt.  Army also committed two chop-blocking penalties, which stalled another two drives.  Aside from the fumbles, Schurr was stellar.  He was tough, determined and took a beating.  He finished the day with 74 yards on 24 carries for two touchdowns.  He threw one pass to junior wide receiver Edgar Allen Poe for 32 yards.  Poe made a nice adjustment to the ball that was thrown a little behind him.

The Army offense looks much different when Schurr is at quarterback as most of the plays will be fullback dives or quarterback options.  With Schurr, the fullbacks had a great day.  The offensive line did not provide gaping holes, but they were big enough for Giachinita, Harris and Walker to get through. Together the fullbacks ran for 114 yards on 18 carries.  Considering that this was one of the better defenses that Army will see this year, with one of the best defensive fronts in the entire nation, the offensive line’s performance cannot be understated.

As surprising as Army’s success on offense was, the defense played an incredible game.  The Army defense limited Penn State to 264 total yards and 108 rushing.  Junior quarterback Christian Hackenberg was 10 of 19 for 156 yards. Hackenberg, once projected as a high first round NFL draft prospect, was generally awful.  However, several passes slipped from the receivers’ hands as the ball was slick.

Has the Army defense turned the corner?  This is a team that gave up 37 points to Fordham and 36 to Eastern Michigan.  The defense certainly looked improved as the defensive line shot gaps, the defensive backs filled lanes and the linebackers made most of the tackles.  Andrew King, Jeremy Timpf, Alex Aukerman and Bayle Wolf teamed up for 25 tackles.  Freshman Brandon Jackson is growing up before our eyes as he had seven more tackles.

Overall it was a spectacular game for Army fans who were expecting to get blown out.  We were almost witness to one of the great Army victories of the new millennium.  Perhaps this game will be a launching point as was the 1995 Army-Notre Dame game – where a missed two point conversion transformed the team into the best Army team in 25 years.

In Durham, NC – Boston College gained 301 total yards, held the ball for 31:50 and only scored seven points to lose to the Blue Devils 9-7.  A muffed punt and a missed field goal in the fourth quarter helped in their demise.

Boston College limited Duke to 33 yards on 35 carries, but Duke was able to move the ball through the air as junior quarterback Thomas Sirk was 18 of 35 for 195 yards. 

Who is favored?

Duke is favored by 12 points

What to look for?

Duke has the best defense that Army will play all year.  Their defense averages 123.4 rushing yards and 146.4 passing yards per game.  They also limit opponents to 10.6 points a game, which is fifth in the country.  Two weeks ago, they beat Georgia Tech, a team that plays a similar offensive style as Army except they are bigger, faster and overall better, 34–20.  Georgia Tech did commit two turnovers and were held on downs four times.  Army averages 287.8 yards rushing and 27 points a game.

The Duke offense averages 403 yards per game, but those are a little inflated as they gained 655 against the North Carolina Central Eagles.  It is expected to be a very nice day at Michie Stadium, so the Army defense will not have the aid of a wet ball. 

Army is a different looking team from the opening game.  They have improved each week on both sides of the ball.  It is unfair to factor the first game into this prediction. 

Duke is the best team that Army will play all year.  Army will have to play a flawless game to stay in this one and they will certainly have to win the turn-over battle to have any chance of winning.

As impressed as we were with last week’s performance and the consistent improvement in the team, Army will most likely not win this game.  Duke knows how to shut down the option and their offense will be too much to contain. This is just a bad match up.  The Cadets can keep this one close, but even if they don’t, a five win season is still attainable. Now, if they catch Duke on their worst day and not paying attention, and if they get a few breaks and bounces… 

Final Score – Duke 24 - Army 14 (predictions in 2015, 3-2)

Game will be shown on CBSCSTV @ 12:00 PM EST.


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